Editing a Life

I have a strange tendency to say “yes” when asked if I can help someone. This has made for some harrowing episodes and someday I may be able to return to Mazatlan without back-up… I still am not quite sure how I managed to find myself in Indiana, but for the most part this participatory impulse has allowed me to be part of some great experiences..

My friend Charles Matthews has written his memoirs with help from Tom Mullen, Lincoln Blake, and Nancy Faus-Mullen. The goal is to publish by his 60th Earlham College reunion in October, and I agreed to help with scanning and organizing the photographs, and making the final corrections to the manuscript, and working with the printer, and recording, editing, and burning a CD. I am wondering where the balance is between doing things we enjoy and when it becomes less fun? Is it when a deadline is imposed? Is it when the things we create for ourselves are to be made public? Is it when I have to figure out how to set a tab in Word?

When I took the first scans of the photographs to Meijer to be printed so we could sort through them and decide which to include, S. told me that she really enjoyed seeing all the images and where were they from? I explained the project and then realized that I had become somewhat desensitized to Charlie’s photos, and was grateful for the reminder of how amazing they really were. Charlie has been an actor all his life, and at 87 he has great personal photographs that almost span the twentieth century. I’ll have to mention this to him when I next visit.

Charlie and his sister, Maxine grew up in Spiceland, Indiana, and from an early photograph of Maxine pulling her little brother on a sled in the snow in the 1920’s, through his service in Asia in World War II, and as an actor on stage in a number of major roles over the span of forty years, he really does have some great photos. Recently I made him dress up as Cervantes/Don Quixote, and as a boxer, and on one day I actually ‘kidnapped’ him and brought him to the Civic Theatre for a photo shoot where he stood on stage with the actors preparing for the next show. Charlie has been a good sport about playing dress-up for me and so when I was asked to help in the preparation of his memoirs, of course I said yes; it’s a hard habit to break.

I have to admit that I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, and this time I won’t have to call for back-up.

One Response to “Editing a Life”

  1. Learning to say no has been a struggle for me, but I’ve realized that saying no more often keeps me truer to my beliefs, honest with those asking, and makes those yess less evident and thus more valuable. I really agree with you, though, in that we can’t let decisions past bring us down! After all, they are the very catalysts that have crafted us into the fine human beings we are today. I think as far as work goes, things stop being fun when we decide they’re no longer fun: it’s then up to us to either hunker down and squeeze whatever personal satisfaction is left out of the work or cut our losses and abandon it. Griping, however, is not an option.

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